Mac News Review

Macs Lose Top Reliability Rating, eSATA Doomed by USB 3, Mac mini Bluetooth and Audio Problems, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2009.03.27

MacBook, PowerBook, iBook, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iNews Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Reviews

Products

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Apple Drops Out of Top Spot in Computer Reliability Report

Computerworld's Greg Keizer reports:

"For the first time, Apple Inc. dropped out of the top spot in the computer-reliability ranking of Rescuecom Corp., a Syracuse, NY-based chain of service shops, and ended in third place behind a pair of Asian computer makers that specialize in laptops."

"Rescuecom generates its scores by comparing the percentage of each vendor's support calls with its US market share. The greater the difference between the two, the higher the score. Higher scores, said Rescuecom President Josh Kaplan, indicate more reliable hardware and better support from the vendor.

"For instance, although Apple's US market share was 6.8%, Macs accounted for only 2.1% of the calls to Rescuecom, producing a score of 324. However, that was dramatically down from Apple's 2008 record-setting score of 700, a number that reflected an even higher market share, 7.8%, but an even lower percentage of support calls, just 1.1%."

"But Kaplan cautioned against reading too much, too quickly, into the company's ranking. 'Asus' shipping numbers skyrocketed in the last few months of 2008,' he said, with many of the shipments involving the popular Eee line of netbooks, such as the Eee 1000, which debuted in August 2008."

"As Rescuecom noted in December 2008, the volume of support calls related to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Vista continues to fall. Kaplan credited Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1), which Microsoft released a year ago, for the improvement. 'SP1 made Vista much more reliable, and there's also more software available for Vista that doesn't require patches [to run properly],' said Kaplan. 'People are having fewer problems because they're not trying to adapt older software to the operating system.'

"Kaplan also addressed the rapid fall in PC prices, arguing that although cheaper machines may make them disposable rather than worthy of repair to some, that's not the case for everyone."

Editor's note: Also see Rescuecom Names Apple Most Reliable for Second Year in a Row from December 2008, which states: "As we noted last year, Rescuecom's methodology isn't necessarily the best to determine reliability. For instance, how many people are just going to the nearest Apple Store for service? Most other PC makers don't have a network of retail stores to provide such service." dk

Ridiculous Rescuecom Statistics Create Apple Reliability Headlines

Roughly Drafted's Daniel Eran Dilger says:

"The numbers, reported by Computerworld, come from rankings that compare the number of tech support calls received by Rescuecom (an operation similar to Geek Squad) and the given PC maker's market share as determined by, apparently, IDC.

"Rescuecom's Apple-related support calls only amounted to 1.1% of the company's calls in 2008, but in the last few months (!), they made up 2.1% of its calls. Apple's US market share numbers were reported to be 7.8% in 2008 but Rescuecom used a 6.8% market share figure for the current quarter, resulting in a 'reliability' statistic calculated by Rescuecom that shifted from 700 in 2008 to the current 324."

"Apple also attracts a demographic willing to pay more for their overall experience. Well heeled PC users are the most likely to call up a service like the New York-based Rescuecom. That means an increase in support calls isn't necessarily the result of a sudden new batch of less reliable machines. As Apple's installed base goes up, more users are going to be around to call for help. Apple's installed base has progressively grown from 20 million to well past 25 million in just the last few years."

Hello, I'm a Sad Abandoned Macintosh

Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz says:

abandoned iMac"'Once upon a time, she loved me. I remember when I helped with her photos, took care of her music, edited movies together. And now . . . now she left me here, in the coldness of NYC.'

"Oh poor you, you sad Macintosh you. You were left to dream the eternal slumber on the streets of the city that never sleeps. Here you you are, all alone, out of your old happy, cozy home, freezing under the cold night, alone, with no purpose or meaning whatsoever. Do you remember the warm light of that desk lamp now? Do you remember her smile? Her fingers caressing your keyboard, pumping words and life and her essence into you? Can you still feel the flower she used to put in a blue vase, right next to you?"

eSATA: Doomed by USB 3.0?

The Register's Chris Mellor says:

"The external SATA (eSATA) interconnect is merely an interim idea and the coming of USB 3.0 will kill it off, according to Verbatim's EMEA business development manager Hans Christoph Kaiser.

"The background is that eSATA, running at 3Gbit/s (around 300MB/sec), is meant to connect external disk drives to PCs using the SATA protocol. Currently most external drives are connected by USB 2.0 running at a pedestrian 480Mbit/s....

"There's no question that eSATA is very much faster than USB 2.0. However, most PCs and laptops don't come with a built-in eSATA port and the internal electronics to connect it to the PC's bus....

"So along comes USB 3.0, rated at around 4.7Gbit/s, say 470MB/s, which will leapfrog SATA 2's speed and be backwards-compatible with current USB 2.0 and 1 devices. We can expect stand-alone USB 3.0 controllers by the end of the year and the first USB 3.0 products in 2010. It seems inevitable that product manufacturers will switch USB ports on their products to USB 3.0 very quickly....

"Isn't it likely that, to save component costs, manufacturers will ditch eSATA ports and rely just on USB 3.0?"

Editor's note: USB 3.0 will provide up to 50% more power (150mA) to low power USB peripherals and up to 80% more (900mA) for high draw peripherals. Where USB 2.0 provides sufficient power for run a 2.5" hard drive, there isn't nearly enough for a 3.5" drive. It's conceivable that we'll see a new generation of 3.5" hard drives with native USB 3.0 support designed to run from bus power. dk

Mac mini Bluetooth Connectivity Issues

MacFixIt reports:

"Users have reported that the new Mac mini is having issues maintaining a stable Bluetooth connection with various Bluetooth devices. The problems generally involve wireless keyboards and mice....

"This appears to be a hardware issue with the new Mac minis (possibly related to the connection of the Bluetooth antenna...."

2009 Mac mini Audio Problems

MacFixIt reports:

"A few people who have purchased the 2009 Mac mini have noticed a variety of audio problems with the computers. Some people have reported the sound appears to crack and distort, and on others say the device is not outputting audio....

"These problems seem to be some sort of hardware fault in the systems, and may be as simple as a loose connector in the computer that's preventing the output of the audio....

"This problem has happened to people who've had the audio working properly before, but for others...."

White 17" IMac Still Available to Education

MacUser's Dan Moren reports:

"When Apple refreshed the iMac line in the middle of 2007, it introduced new aluminum-clad models in the 20-inch and 24-inch sizes. Left in the dust, however, was the low-end 17-inch model, which was discontinued.

"Or was it? Reports over the weekend suggested that the 17-inch model still remains available, for some - specifically, the education market...."

Even IT Pros Are Demanding Macs

InfoWorld's Mel Beckman reports:

"The rise of the Mac in the enterprise is increasing because users are finding ever more ingenious ways to work with Apple's accommodating platform. A mid-2008 Yankee Group survey of 750 senior IT executives found nearly 80 percent have Macs onboard, up from 47 percent in 2006. Nearly a quarter of these have 30 or more Mac boxes. Usability features such as Safari browsing, iChat videoconferencing, FileVault encryption, Back To My Mac remote control, Spotlight search, and Time Machine backup were cited as primary user attractants.

"You might think the Mac value proposition story has been told, but the reasons for Mac popularity are diverse and steadily increasing - and not just with end-users...."

One Person's Experience Buying a New Mac mini from PowerMax

Torley says:

"I recently wrote an article for leading personal finance blog Wise Bread about the new Mac minis, and how I felt that some of the Apple BTO upgrades are overpriced. I still do, but shortly after posting it, I hunted around online, and remembered PowerMax. While my desired config wasn't listed on their site, I spoke to Michelle Ryther on the phone, who was extremely friendly and gave me a quote for $818 on:

"Mac mini 2.26GHz with:

  • 4GB of RAM (installed by them)
  • 120GB hard drive

"That compares to $899 at Apple's site - a $81 savings. Shipping was free and since they're in Oregon and I'm in Washington, I saved on sales tax too, which would've been $75 from Apple...."

Quinte Health Care Gives Doctors with Macs Access to Hospital IT Through ROAM

PR: AnyWare Group Inc. has announced that Quinte Health Care has begun sharing technology through the ROAM Portal Platform across multiple facilities spread over 3 diverse counties in Southeastern Ontario. The ROAM initiative makes medical systems, applications and IT resources available to physicians and surgeons, wherever they are, including those who prefer to work with the Mac OS X operating system.

"The most important challenge faced by QHC, when searching for the right portal platform, was the growing number of doctors who prefer Apple Macintosh computers," said Russell Dick, IT Director at Quinte Health Care. "ROAM is fully compatible with Macs, including making non-Mac software useable, virtually, through ROAM."

"AnyWare Group's ROAM Portal Platform offers a proven connectivity solution for our Mac-based healthcare providers who want to interact with legacy and emerging medical technology without leaving the operating system they love."

Along with the ROAM Portal Platform, QHC selected the ROAM VPN, a thin client solution that allows authorized doctors and staff to access:

  • new and legacy MEDITECH systems housed at different locations
  • 2 PACS radiology systems
  • EMHware
  • the corporate Intranet
  • Citrix published applications
  • Terminal Services applications
  • custom Web applications
  • the client care information system (WinCis)
  • financial system information
  • Outlook Web Access.

Applications are presented through a personalized ROAM Portal: a single point of role-based access on any PC or Mac computer.

"Radiologists, who often prefer Macintosh, can work from anywhere," said Russel Dick. "When the weather is questionable, telecommuting helps 'get the job done' without risking bad roads or wasting valuable patient care-time traveling. ROAM is enabling physicians to have access to as much information as possible, which obviously improves the quality of care."

3With the implementation at Quinte Health Care, ROAM affirms its status as the market leader in Macintosh support for the Health Care Industry, improving the efficiency and work life of hospital employees across North America,2 said Robert Lalonde, CEO of AnyWare Group Inc. About Quinte Health Care

Quinte Health Care (QHC) consists of four fully-accredited hospital sites: QHC Belleville General; QHC North Hastings (in the town of Bancroft); QHC Prince Edward County Memorial (in the town of Picton); and QHC Trenton Memorial (in the city of Quinte West). 1600 staff, along with the 280 doctors who have privileges, provide primary and secondary services to a diverse catchment area of about 160,000 people.

AnyWare Group is the leading remote access solution provider for hospitals and healthcare organizations. AnyWare Group's award-winning ROAM Platform enables clientless remote access to all applications from any device (PCs and Macs) without requiring the management of users' computers. Through the ROAM portal, organizations present all relevant applications to authorized users, when and where required.

Reviews

Core Image Graphics Performance on Nehalem Mac Pro

Bare Feats' rob-ART morgan reports:

"I can almost hear some of you snort in contempt when I publish 3D Games as a measure of the Nehalem's 'manhood.' I make no apologies because, whether you play 3D accelerated games or not, the state-of-the-art gaming environment stresses all subsystems of the Mac Pro. So it could be argued that games measure total system performance.

"Having said that, I'm throwing you serious users a bone. I, too, want to know how the Nehalem Mac Pros with their two graphics card options handle the Core Image effects processing...."

Newest 24" iMac 'a Sight to Behold' - and $300 Cheaper

Computerworld's Michael DeAgonia reports:

"Earlier this month, Apple completed a round of hardware updates to its Mac Pro, iMac and Mac mini lines, offering up modest speed boosts, some pricing tweaks and - most importantly - the Nvidia 9400M chipset for graphics.

"Best of all for iMac fans, Apple also made the 24-in. version of its popular all-in-one configuration a more tempting proposition by making it less expensive. Smart move in the middle of a recession...."

Products

OnLive Revolutionizes Video Games on Slower Computers, Intel Macs

PR: OnLive, Inc., the pioneer of the on demand era of video games, will emerge tonight from seven years of stealth development within the Rearden incubator to unveil The OnLive Game Service and OnLive MicroConsole™ at the 2009 Game Developers Conference. OnLive is a revolutionary, on demand video game platform delivering the latest and most advanced games instantly, on any TV via a sleek, inexpensive MicroConsole, or on almost any PC or Mac.* OnLive is supported by many of the top names in the video games industry including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive Software, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, THQ Inc., Epic Games, Eidos, Atari Interactive and Codemasters.

Instant, High-performance Gameplay

OnLive MicroConsole"OnLive is the most powerful game system in the world. No high-end hardware, no upgrades, no endless downloads, no discs, no recalls, no obsolescence," said Steve Perlman, Founder and CEO of OnLive. "With OnLive, your video game experience is always state-of-the-art."

Designed for gamers of all skills and ages, the OnLive Game Service is easy to use. The elegantly designed OnLive MicroConsole - about as small as a deck of cards - easily connects any TV and home broadband connection to the OnLive Game Service and is operated by an OnLive wireless controller. Gamers can enjoy the same experience on almost any Internet-connected PC or Mac via a small browser plug-in from OnLive.com - even entry-level computers will play the highest performance games. Whether on TV, PC or Mac, OnLive provides instant access to the most advanced games in the world, solo and multiplayer.

"OnLive combines the successful components of video games, online distribution and social networking into one affordable, flexible platform that offers a new way for game fans to access and enjoy content," said Mike McGarvey, COO of OnLive. "By substantially lowering the barriers between content and consumers, OnLive has created an environment that is highly beneficial for every facet of the video game ecosystem. With OnLive, gamers can play what they want, when they want, how they want. That level of freedom has never been possible until now."

Vibrant Community on a Massive Scale

OnLive Game ServiceThe OnLive Game Service supports a live community of unprecedented scale. A revolutionary user interface allows video game fans to watch thousands of live games in action, join in at any point, share their exploits with friends through social networking tools, or make Brag Clips™ that showcase their skills. With OnLive, gamers have immediate access to demos and can instantly try, buy and play top-tier games, whether playing solo or with friends.

Benefiting the Game Ecosystem

"With OnLive we've cleared the last remaining hurdle for the video games industry: effective online distribution," said Steve Perlman, Founder and CEO of OnLive. "By putting the value back into the games themselves and removing the reliance on expensive, short-lived hardware, we are dramatically shifting the economics of the industry. Delivering games instantly to the digital living room is the promise game fans have been waiting for and OnLive makes that promise a reality that's affordable, flexible and focused on their individual needs."

OnLive offers significant benefits to publishers and developers. It costs far less to develop a game for OnLive, and the economics are far more efficient than retail or download distribution models. It typically only takes a few weeks to extend an existing version of a game to work on the OnLive service, so there is little cost incurred by developers and publishers to support the OnLive platform.

Through a partnership with Epic Games, an industry leading developer of triple-A games and cross-platform game engine technology, the award-winning Unreal® Engine 3 is compatible with the OnLive platform. Games leveraging the cutting-edge technology and versatility of the Unreal Engine will easily run on the OnLive service.

Play Top Games from Top Names

OnLive will be showing 16 great titles playable during the 2009 Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco at the OnLive Booth, North Hall #5128.

Coming Soon...

The OnLive Game Service will be offered through a monthly subscription in Winter 2009. OnLive will be available in a variety of different pricing packages and tiers, competitively priced to retail.

OnLive harnesses cloud computing to provide the power and intelligence needed to instantly deliver the latest, high-end games titles directly to TVs via a sleek, inexpensive MicroConsole, or on PCs and Macs.

*Only Intel-based Macs will be supported.

Software

Carbon Copy Cloner 3.2 Easy-to-Use Cloning and Backup Utility Updated

Carbon Copy ClonerPR: In its simplest form, Carbon Copy Cloner will clone one hard drive to another, copying every single block or file to create an exact replica of your source hard drive. This is very useful if, for example, your laptop is damaged and you must send it in for repair.

CCC can also be used to perform regular backups of your data. When you select a source disk in CCC, you are presented with the contents of that disk (hidden items too). Simply uncheck the more....

New in version 3.2:

  • Carbon Copy ClonerPrior to version 3, CCC would not delete items at the root level of the target volume if those items were not present on the source volume. This was a convenient feature, but due to some fairly significant underlying changes in CCC 3, that feature was not brought forward. This feature is now available again in version 3.2 and later via the "Protect root-level items on the target" option. See the documentation for more details on the implementation of this feature.
  • Implemented filters support for remote source volumes.
  • CCC no longer disables non-HFS formatted volumes in the source and target lists. Rather, selecting these non-supported filesystems as a source or target will produce a helpful dialog box indicating how to proceed with those volumes.
  • The description of what will happen during a "Backup everything" task has been updated to more accurately reflect what actually occurs.
  • CCC now correctly reports on the bootability of mirrored volumes on PowerPC systems.
  • Resolved a few minor issues with cropped text in non-English localizations.
  • CCC will now report IO errors via a dialog box every time they are encountered. Previously, non-IO related errors encountered after IO errors would take precedence, and IO errors would only be reported in the CCC log.
  • Addressed an issue in which CCC would fail with a generic error when running out of space for temporary files on the target volume.
  • Included an updated version of rsync 3.0.5.
  • Resolved an issue in which locked folders caused synchronization errors in rare circumstances.
  • Resolved several rsync-related issues related to getting, listing, setting, and removing extended attributes.
  • Resolved an issue in which CCC would prompt the user to run a scheduled task (with a remote Macintosh as the target) when the network connection was re-established even if the task had been explicitly deferred.
  • CCC now creates its own key pair for ssh communication with other Macs on your network, rather than using any pre-existing key pairs.
  • CCC now mounts disk images at custom mount points in /tmp rather than in the default location of /Volumes.
  • Resolved an issue in which disk images could not be created on AFP or SMB network shares.
  • Resolved an issue in which the failure of certain built-in tasks would indicate that there was an error with a preflight script.
  • Several updates to the documentation: Expanded on the Tips section, added extensive coverage of the new "Protect root-level items on the target" feature, updated instructions on restoring from a disk image, minor updates to the "Backing up to a remote Macintosh" section (plus a large addition on backing up multiple Macs to a single "server"), and added several items to the FAQ section.

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4.8 or later.

Carbon Copy Cloner 3.2 is $10 shareware

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